Three Mom Lessons I Learned While Remodeling Our House


This summer, my husband and I, along with my mom (the most skilled handyman in our family), spent many hours getting our house ready to sell. We bought our house two days before our wedding 18 years ago, and have lived there since, hosting parties, celebrating holidays, bringing home babies, sending babies off to first days of school. We dearly love our house, and we loved it hard, as any family of five would. So it needed a little sprucing up before we offered it up for someone else to love.

This year will always be remembered as “The Summer of Renovations.” I learned a lot, and I’m not just talking about plumbing and floor refinishing. Here are three important truths that apply to both remodeling your house and being a mom (and maybe some other areas of your life too).

Three Lessons I Learned While Remodeling Our House

1. Screwing up will not kill you, and just about everything can be fixed.

Did I mention that I have limited skill in the areas of plumbing, electrical, and carpentry? Then you can imagine that we made a few mistakes along the way. We maybe didn’t get the shower installed exactly correctly the first time. Perhaps you would be surprised at how much easier it is to install a shower the second time you do it (or the fifth). Then again, perhaps it doesn’t surprise you at all.

There will be plenty of times when you screw up as a mom. My firstborn would not sleep. For months, he woke up every two or three hours, and despite trying all the advice, he screamed for hours unless I held him. I was sure I had broken him. I was sure that neither of us was ever going to have a good night’s sleep ever again. Turns out, I was wrong. He’s now 14. I promise you this—the boy knows how to sleep. Plus, by the time I was on my third go-round at teaching an infant to sleep, I definitely sucked less at it. That girl slept like a champ from just a few weeks old.

Whatever it is, give yourself a little slack. When you’re new to something, don’t expect to be perfect at it, whether it’s fitting a sink drain together or having a delicate conversation with a moody teenager. However you might screw it up on your first try, step back, evaluate what you did wrong, maybe check YouTube for some advice, take a deep breath, and try again. You can fix it.

2. You can’t be Bob Villa all day long and then come home and be Martha Stewart too.

My friend delivered this excellent advice late one afternoon when I was complaining about going home to make dinner after she and I had spent the day painting two bathrooms.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that, as a mom, I have A LOT of job titles. Mom, wife, homeschool teacher, appointment maker, chef, volunteer, chauffeur, social coordinator, not to mention my actual job that I get paid to do. I’m guessing your list is at least as long as mine, amiright? Some days—many days, in fact, it’s wonderful. I have a great life, and I wouldn’t change it. But some days, it is definitely NOT wonderful. Some days, it is just too much. This was one of those days.

I had more than a few of these days during our Summer of Renovations. My kids ate more Ramen and frozen chicken nuggets in those few months than they probably had in their whole entire life before that. They survived, and they won’t soon forget how good they usually have it with all that home cooked food I make. My husband did a lot of errands, housework, and carpooling that he usually doesn’t have to worry about. He survived, and he won’t soon forget how good he usually has it either. I spent a lot of time doing things that I don’t really enjoy nor have much talent for. I survived, and I won’t soon forget how good I have it, to spend most of my days doing things I enjoy.

Still, when life demands it, I can be Bob Villa or even Martha Stewart for a day. Maybe just not both at one time.

3. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

Our house is pretty old. Ninety years old, in fact. That means it isn’t perfect. There are dings in some of the woodwork, a bathroom is oddly arranged, and some walls are no longer perfectly smooth. Each one of these imperfections gave me fits at one time or another.

Yet with each task we completed—refinishing the hardwood floors, updating a bathroom, even just cleaning the windows, I was reminded at how much beauty and charm our house has largely because of the very thing that was frustrating me—it’s age and imperfections. Charm, character, beautiful woodwork—all of these things are not easily or cheaply purchased. It takes time to develop these traits in a home.

Do you know what else it takes time to do? It takes time to grow the traits and traditions that make your family special. The only requirement is that they are meaningful and special to you and yours. One example that stands out to me is our Christmas tradition. It took us a few years as new parents to figure out what the perfect holiday is for us, and when we did, it didn’t look much like others we knew. Even though our parents live in different cities, we don’t travel on Christmas day. We stay home in our pajamas, just the five of us, the whole day. We have Monkey Bread for breakfast, and then we nap, play with our new toys, eat a simple dinner (one that I did not spend the whole day preparing), and stay up late watching movies.

Our house is all done. It’s beautiful. I’m proud of all the work we did, but I am also a little sad that we are leaving the place where we started our marriage and then grew our family. Luckily beautiful memories and all that we have learned along the way don’t need to be packed in a box. They will move with us where ever we go. 


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